Herald Journal Columns
March 3, 2003
Pastor's Column

What are the items we are not willing to give to God?

By Scott Yates, Youth Pastor, Howard Lake Christian Church

Romans 12:1 "And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice ­ the kind he will accept. When you think of what he has done for you, is this too much to ask?"

- New Living Translation

This passage of scripture always reminds me of an old saying, "The problem with living sacrifices is that they keep falling off of the altar."

Ivan the Terrible was one of the great Czars of 16th-century Russia ­ best known for his erratic behavior and his brutality. He was so busy conquering new territory for his country that he had no time to find a wife.

His advisors became concerned that he had not married, and therefore would not produce an heir to the throne. So Ivan commanded his men to find him a suitable wife who was beautiful, intelligent, and the daughter of a nobleman.

They found her in Greece. Her name was Sophia, the daughter of the king of Greece. Ivan asked the king for his daughter's hand in marriage and the king agreed on the condition that Ivan be baptized and joined in the church.

Ivan agreed and set out for Greece to be married, accompanied by five hundred of his best soldiers.

When they discovered that Ivan was to be baptized, the soldiers said they wanted to be baptized also. A requirement of baptism was to make a profession of faith and to affirm the articles of the Orthodox church, which the soldiers agreed to do ­ except for one.

The article they couldn't affirm was one which prohibited them from being professional soldiers. They asked the priest if they could have some time to think over the problem of how to join the church and at the same time remain soldiers in Ivan's army.

They devised a plan among themselves and announced that they were ready to be baptized. They marched out into the water, all five hundred of them, with five hundred priests.

As the priests put the soldiers under the water, each soldier grasped his sword and lifted it high in the air. The soldiers were baptized completely, except for their swords and their fighting arms.

Those who witnessed the mass baptism said that it was an amazing spectacle to see five hundred dry arms and five hundred swords sticking up out of the water.

The soldiers had decided that they could give all of themselves to the church except for their fighting arms and their swords. These would remain in possession of the state.

Some of us today are no different from those soldiers. We want to become Christians and to possess the promise of eternal life. We want the blessing of God on our lives and to be part of his forever family, the church.

But we want it on our terms. So we come to Christ holding something of ourselves out of the water.

I have had the privilege of performing several baptisms in my few years of ministry. Every time, however, I notice something consistent. Beside the place of the baptism there lays a small pile of items that one would not want to take into the water. These items often represent the things we hold back from God.

For example, you almost always see, laying in the pile, a wallet. This represents our money. Often, at very best we give our 10 percent and that's all, the rest belongs to us.

A man once asked Jesus, "What good things must I do to get eternal life?" Jesus then encourages him to keep the commandments of Moses, "do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal."

The young man replies, "All these I have kept." Jesus then gets to his heart ­ the one thing he is holding back. "If you want to be perfect," Jesus says, "go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven." The man went away sad because he was very rich.

Of course none of us are rich ­ the one who is rich is the family that lives down the street. You know, the ones who own the nicer car, or the bigger house. So God wouldn't ask any more of us. Wrong! God gave all of himself, and he wants all of us. This includes our money.

Another item one finds rummaging through the pile beside the baptism is a watch. Our time is probably the hardest thing to give to God.

We give Him a part of the beginning of every meal, some time before we go to bed, possibly an hour or two Wednesdays, and of course there are two or three hours every Sunday. The rest of the time we keep for ourselves.

We're just too busy we say. Not enough time. That is true, that there is not enough time, if your sharing. But God desires it all. Every minute is a sacrifice to God.

Looking in the pile, the list could go on. We could talk about the shoes (your profession) or the jewelry (material possessions) or the change of clothes (our impressions toward people).

I ask you, what part of your life have you been unwilling to give to God? What is the "unbaptized arm" in your life?

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